HRC praises domestic partner benefits bill for federal workers

WASHINGTON -- The Human Rights Campaign voiced support for a bill unveiled by Rep. Barney Frank that would make domestic partner benefits available to federal employees.

"As a former executive of a Fortune 100 company, I have seen firsthand the effects of equitable treatment of gay and lesbian employees in the workplace," HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch said at a news conference today. "Put simply, it not only promotes fairness and great values, it is good business."

Frank, D-Mass., unveiled the legislation at a news conference on Capitol Hill. The measure, called the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 1997, would make such benefits available to the same-sex and opposite-sex partners of all federal workers.

Birch pointed out that an increasing number of the most successful and fastest-growing U.S. corporations have implemented domestic partner coverage for their gay employees, including such household names as IBM, American Express, Eastman Kodak and Nike.

"They took this step not only because it ensures the ability to attract the best talent from the broadest pool, or because the commitment and loyalty of every employee is enhanced, but because such policies honor and celebrate the values of fairness and equality on which this nation was founded," she said.

She also noted that no company that has ever instituted such benefits has withdrawn them, that there has never been a documented case of fraud surrounding such policies and that the cost of extending domestic partner benefits is minimal.

Among the benefits extended under this legislation: Participation in the civil service or federal employees' retirement program; life insurance; health insurance; and workers' compensation.

"A married heterosexual federal employee with a spouse and child can be eligible for a host of benefits, including health insurance, life insurance, and participation in a federal employees' retirement program," said Helen Gonzales, Public Policy Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Yet, another federal worker with a partner and a child who does exactly the same job would not qualify for the same benefits. That's the same as advertising a job in a newspaper saying "salespeople wanted: salary for married heterosexuals, $12 an hour, salary for unmarried heterosexuals and gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered persons, $7.20 per hour. We would all recognize that as unfair, illegal and discriminatory."

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